Tuscany in Winter
They tell me it rarely snows in Florence. A check of average temperatures confirms this assertion. Average cold temperatures do not dip below freezing. However, a quick search of “snowy Florence” photos online will bring up thousands of unbelievable shots. Apparently when it does snow, everyone is a photographer. And it’s no wonder— this city that I love, which takes my breath away even in crowds and 90-degree heat, becomes quiet, pure and sparkling under a light blanket of white.
This is Tuscany in winter, if you’re very lucky. Ancient buildings dusted in snow, vineyards and olive trees under a white blanket, snowball fights in a piazza.
Whether or not you are fortunate enough to time your trip to coincide with a rare snow flurry, winter is a wonderful time to visit Tuscany. Tourists are sparse and the streets are quiet and peaceful. It’s the perfect time to see all the major museums and monuments that are packed during summer.
In between your museum tours, be sure to thaw out in true Tuscan style. The Tuscan people have been visiting natural thermal baths for centuries, and have built charming spa towns around some incredible hot springs.
Montecatini Terme is a luxurious and hip spa town west of Florence on the way to Lucca. Its thermal waters are drunk and soaked in at various spas all over town. Many of the town’s spas, in addition to boasting curative waters, are beautiful specimens of architecture. The town is fun to stroll for shopping and dining when you’re not engaged in your healing treatments.
And if the smell of sulfur is not your thing, our favorite manmade spa in all of Tuscany is the grand and glorious Castello di Velona, located outside of Montalcino in Southern Tuscany (photo below). Its marble-rich elegance reminds me of ancient Rome, and the views from its hilltop perch are spectacular. Brandy and I stayed there a few years ago with our husbands during a huge rain storm that lasted for days. The staff took exceptional care of us, and we enjoyed their spa so much we hardly thought of leaving.
Weather in Tuscany, as is the case with the rest of the planet, remains unpredictable. 1929 and 1985 saw very cold winters, when even the Arno river froze solid (see photo from 1929).
But the truth is that Tuscan temperatures are usually relatively mild year-round. The most you should expect is heat in summer and rain in spring and winter. Outside of those two phenomena, expect perfection. Snow is generally not in the forecast. But one of these days I intend to plan my trip just right to catch the sunset with a light dusting on the Duomo.